Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dregs of the Whine

I consider it a given that only a certain percentage of talk uttered by any human being is going to be interesting. The more time is taken before speaking one’s mind, the more considered the speech, the more likely it will be that something of what is said will be useful.

So consider the case of the radio talk show hosts. They talk for hours on end, every day, five days a week, all year long, excluding vacations. Leaving aside the intelligence of the speaker, or his or her political orientation, the mere law of averages would dictate that the vast majority of what is said will be boring rubbish, and that a considerable percentage of that rubbish will be simply false. I believe this because I’m keenly aware of the limitations of human nature. Even Homer nods, as they say—so what can we except from somebody taking calls on a radio show every day?

I would argue, therefore, that the very premise of talk radio as it is today guarantees an overflow of verbal junk. But of course the situation is far worse than that. The right-wing radio host, as pioneered by Rush Limbaugh, emits a stream of self-righteous opinion about everything under the sun, without the restraint of humility or doubt. Everything said is determined beforehand by an ideology of aggression and bombast. The breed of “personalities” that crawled from under the rocks in the 1990s, and which plagues us today, possesses a range of opinion so predictable that the only element of surprise is how offensive, how ugly, the expression might be on a given day. The AM airwaves are now owned by unscrupulous demagogues for whom no lie or distortion is off limits.

And yet, behind the arrogant presentation, underneath the swagger, we can hear, if we listen carefully, a sickening and pathetic sound—it’s the whine of the self-pitying victim. Everything would be fine if it weren’t for the liberals, the feminists, the gays, the peaceniks, the civil rights “crowd.” The radio orators rarely pause to consider anything positive. Everything takes the form of reaction. Tormented by the awareness of traitors in their midst, they spend hours berating one group or another, one liberal figure or another, in a relentless litany of complaint. Their standards are non-existent. If their own guy outs a CIA agent, they’ll find a justification for it. Would anyone in their right mind believe that if a Democratic president, a Clinton, or (heaven forbid) a Howard Dean, had outed a CIA agent, that the windbags would be justifying it? Of course not. And the fact that their standards shift according to whether the person involved is on “their side” or not, demonstrates that they have no principles at all.

After two decades of incessant on-air sniveling, the spoiled brat whine that knows no satiety in its “poor, poor me” sense of victimhood (even after their wingnut faction has taken power, they talk as if liberals are running things!), it’s a wonder that anyone can listen to this crap. How can people tune in to Rush, or Hannity, or Michael Savage day after day, week after week, and not go into a coma of rant-induced boredom? What pleasure can be derived from having some idiot complain for hours in your ear? Such is the mystery of the hate radio listener, but the polls are proving that they are a sad little minority.

One of the surest signs that sanity has revived in this country will be when these ridiculous shows lose what popularity they have. For real thought to occur, a certain amount of silence is necessary. Quiet minds speak wisdom. And may we see a day soon when the whiners are at a loss for words.

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